An elegiac exploration of the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), the latest film from Barbara Hammer reveals the anxiety of making art without full self-disclosure, and what life is like in the shadows. Filmed in Bishop’s best loved homes in the US, Canada, and Brazil — buildings and landscapes that bear cultural memories — interspersed with interviews with poets, friends, and scholars who provide the missing links to her many female lovers. The filmmaker pulls us into Bishop’s world with present day footage and archival photos of the women and places she loved. Bishop’s intimate poetry is beautifully performed by Kathleen Chalfant, accompanied by an evocative soundtrack, which brings this brilliant poet into the light.
Director’s Statement: Barbara Hammer
In 2010 I was thinking about making a film on Cape Cod comparing the landscapes around the places I had lived during summer months — the old dune shacks and the modern houses that are being rebuilt. I realized I needed a human figure for physical and emotional scale to populate the architecture and the geography. The poet Elizabeth Bishop had lived both at a girls youth camp in Wellfleet and as a young adult in the Province Lands dune shacks of her friends. As an artist I believe that the architectural structures in which I live and work influence the art I make. I went in search of Bishop’s homes to explore the buildings and the poetry and paintings she made in them.
Barbara Hammer is a pioneer of queer cinema. She is a visual artist working primarily in film and video, and her work reveals and celebrates marginalized peoples whose stories have not been told. Her cinema is multileveled and engages an audience viscerally and intellectually, activating them to make social change. She has made over 80 moving image works in a career that spans 40 years.
In recognition of her unique contributions, AIFF will give a special Pride Award to Barbara, sponsored by the Equity Foundation, which is also supporting a workshop led by Barbara with a group of high school and college student filmmakers. The Equity Foundation also sponsors the PridePrize.